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Clear Communication During COVID-19

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The Eugene Family YMCA, located in Eugene, Oregon, closed on March 12 after they learned a staff member was being tested for COVID-19. Shortly after, their communications team issued their first daily update to an email list of over 8,000 people, something their members would grow used to receiving.

“Obviously, with such a chaotic pace of new information, we needed to be informing our members,” said Beth Casper, the marketing and communications manager for the Eugene Family Y. “Especially when so many wanted to know the test results of our staff member, we needed to share the schedule for facility reopening and our plans for preventing the spread of a contagious virus.”

Casper explained the daily updates were a natural result of their efforts to be transparent, informative, positive, helpful and supportive — all of the ways they typically interact in-person — in the face of uncertainty, fear and a need for information.

Normally the Y issues an e-newsletter once a month and a printed quarterly newsletter. The daily updates were packed with information from the beginning and in a longer format than members were used to receiving. After 16 consecutive updates, Oregon issued a ‘Stay at Home’ order, allowing the staff to create a routine of working from home. This also allowed them to reduce the email updates to once a week.

“The response to our daily updates was overwhelmingly positive,” explained Casper. “We received dozens of replies to each one.”

Casper knows issuing a daily communication can be difficult even during normal operations, but said if your facility has the capacity to scale up your communications during this closure due to a pandemic, it is well worth the effort.

“Our community members are hungry for reliable, pertinent information, and they will turn to well-known and well-loved sources, such as a local YMCA,” said Casper. “This is the perfect opportunity to show your members how you’re continuing to deliver your mission in new and innovative ways during the pandemic.”

Below, Casper shared five tips other facilities can implement to help improve their communications during the coronavirus pandemic:

  1. Create a communications team to develop the content, and look specifically to your communications during this closure. Daily and even weekly communication is a lot of work, so be sure to include a team of at least four people.
  2. Include a mixture of pertinent information, messages from staff, images and notes from members, community resources and positive news. Above all, be authentic, honest and compassionate.
  3. Set up an email address for replies. Appoint a staff member to respond to each and every email, even the negative ones.
  4. Content from your communications should also be included on your website and social media. Again, appoint someone to respond to individual comments.
  5. Support each other. It’s a lot of work to handle this level of communication.

 

 

Below is a gallery of messages sent in the Eugene Family Y’s daily updates:

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Taylor Brown

Taylor Brown is a staff writer for Community Rec Magazine. She can be reached at taylor@peakemedia.com.

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